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'Investing in social housing does not just put roofs over heads'

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The government’s focus on social housing has been rightly welcomed by the housing sector.

For too long we who provide temporary accommodation and manage social housing have seen the stigma and lack of funding for these most crucial national assets. A government promoting and defending social housing is not something we have seen since the 1970s.

The green paper takes several steps in the right direction, but it fundamentally misses the trick of making the business case for social housing. The contribution social housing can make in terms of cost savings in budgets across Whitehall has not been recognised.

The welfare budget would come down if money was directed to build social housing. The communities who live in such housing have traditionally had more engagement with public authorities via housing and child benefit payments, job centres, alcohol and drugs services, and early intervention in child welfare and family breakdown.

The ringfenced health budget would be impacted due to the more immediate link between genuine social care and social housing. That means early intervention, less bed blocking, more access to public health facilities and to services which let people enjoy independent lives in their own homes. Extra care homes and supported living have repeatedly proven to help elderly people stay out of hospital and live flourishing, independent lives.

The government is doing what it can to make important interventions outside of the Brexit-dominated legislative process and has agreed to implement Dame Judith Hackitt’s review of building regulations and fire safety in full. Even so, with Parliament and Whitehall dominated by Brexit we are losing time and parliamentary will for important legislation and debate on the other great issues of our time.

Ideally a social care green paper would properly fund our elderly to live with the respect and dignity they deserve. Meanwhile a housing green paper would tackle homelessness, child poverty, health and wellbeing, anti-social behaviour, community division, the deficit, and social isolation. Much of that could be achieved by properly investing public money in social housing – and that investment would reap dividends for generations.

Alan Long, executive director, Mears Group

Column sponsored and supplied by Mears Group

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